DALLAS -- "Pharmacy has evolved into a process of dispensing information," said Bob Storch, vice president of professional services and health and beauty care at Dominick's Finer Foods, Northlake, Ill.
s as well as its HBC departments. "The pharmacist must counsel the patient and be involved in the drug regimen and the therapeutic outcome of that patient," he said.
Storch spoke at the General Merchandise/Health and Beauty Care Conference sponsored by the Food Marketing Institute and the Grocery Manufacturers of America meeting last fall. Also on the program was Harvey Durand, group vice president of the drug store division at Vons Cos., Arcadia, Calif.
For pharmacists to assume such a role, supermarket companies need to invest in the latest technology, said Storch. All of Dominick's pharmacies have laser printers to produce patient information leaflets using the USP-DI [United States Pharmacopeia-Drug Information] data base linked with Medi-Span, Indianapolis. Radio spots have been successful for letting people in Chicago know that Dominick's provides patient information leaflets with its prescriptions, said Storch.
Dominick's also has tried a number of unusual cross-merchandising methods.
"I never thought that I would see turkeys being given away with a transferred prescription. But we did it. It does work. It gives you the opportunity to take the synergy of your supermarket and create some excitement for your customers." Storch added that such a promotion is also something that a drug store chain can't do.
Other departments where cross-merchandising has been tried include video and floral. Third-party plans have been an important part of Dominick's growth. Two years ago, when Storch joined Dominick's from Revco Drug Stores, Dominick's accepted 100 third-party plans for 26 groups. "Now we're in well over 119 groups and work with over 1,000 prescription drug plans." Dominick's is also a licensed third-party administrator. The chain expects to soon sign up a large manufacturer for which it will administer a prescription drug program. The chain already fills prescriptions for its own meatcutters for workman's compensation with claims adjudicated on-line.
Dominick's is looking to apply category management tools to pharmacy by clustering stores based on the disease states of pharmacy patients. "We want to know that we're pricing correctly based on the type of people living around that store. It's foolish to have birth control pills at a very low price if you're in a high senior citizen area," explained Storch.
It takes more than "the mere presence of a pharmacy department" to maximize the potential of pharmacy both on health and beauty care sales and on the consumer's perception of the supermarket, said Harvey Durand of Vons Cos., which operates 118 in-store pharmacies.
Durand cited the following as evidence of Vons' corporate commitment to pharmacy: location of the pharmacy on "prime in-store real estate; having talented, dedicated pharmacy personnel; use of the latest technology; unique marketing programs, and support for professional pharmacy organizations.
"We locate our pharmacies whenever possible at the front of the store, near the main entrance," said Durand. "Think about it. When patients come in to have a prescription filled, why are they there? They don't feel good. They want to get their medicine. They want to be treated right. They want to get in, they want to get out with it. Also, by having it at the front, customers know where your pharmacy is and that you're in the business."
Vons' professional staff includes its pharmacy director, Paul Knerr, and three pharmacy field supervisors who cover approximately 39 stores each. It is their responsibility to co-supervise the pharmacist with the store manager, said Durand. The head pharmacist reports to the field supervisor and the store manager. The supervisors also develop local marketing plans.
To make sure it stays current in the rapidly evolving area of computer technology, Vons recently put together a task force at the corporate level to restudy all the applications of the current available technology and look at pharmacy efficiency in terms of store layout and design.
With new laws and regulations, including the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1990, or OBRA, requirements, Durand said it's important to make sure that the capabilities of the chain's pharmacy system can keep up with the ever-changing demands. Vons is moving to laser jet printers. "This is quite an investment which will allow us to have bar coding for scanning," said Durand. "This is going to be very important because obviously we can learn a lot of information through scan information. One of things we're able to do is have targeted marketing programs. There may be a new drug coming out that's competing with another drug and we can work a special marketing program so that when the prescription is scanned, all of a sudden on that consumer's receipt is information on other product options."
To improve store managers' understanding of pharmacy, Vons put together a store manager reference guide on pharmacy. "'The Store Manager's Survival Guide to Pharmacy,' puts in laymen's terms all the technical aspects of pharmacy and describes how store managers can work as a team with the pharmacists in building their business within their store," explained Durand. Vons also has a monthly newsletter for store managers and pharmacists.
Vons is committed to the interaction between pharmacy and HBC occurring "at least once a week and most often, it's almost daily," said Durand.